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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

48                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

tell his father that he has come home because he has been turned
out of his regiment - another officer had found him with his wife,
and had horse-whipped him. Fritz to his father's angry question
answers that he had been unable to use his sword, - because it
was not handy. . . . Since he has been thrashed there is even the
question whether he is entitled to fight a duel (satisfaktionsfdhig).
The tension is relieved when news comes that the regimental
Ehrenrat permit the duel, and the play ends with a poignant fare-
well. It must be the last, for the injured officer is the crack shot of
the regiment. Father and cousin bear up, like true Prussians; the
mother does not know. Of the other two Morituri playlets Teja is
a somewhat melodramatic but touching depiction of the last phase
in the history of the East Goths in Italy (Teja, the last King of the
race, marches out with the remnants of his army to meet a hero's
death on the slopes of Vesuvius), while Das Ewig-Mannliche - in
verse which imitates the clever rhyming of Ludwig Fulda's ver-
sions of Moliere - cynically shows that men, if real males (but
there is a costume contrast of the doll-like dandies of Courts), are
eternally fooled by the cat-like playing of glamorous woman. Teja
had been a first slight essay in the historical drama; Johannes (1898)
is a determined effort to capture a place by the side of Hebbel,
whose dramatic manner is closely followed: the period is at a
turning of history, and there is religious or social symbol as the
essential theme of the action. The hero is John the Baptist, and he
perishes because of the conflict between his fighting fervour and
the news that reaches him that the Messiah, of whom he is the
forerunner, is preaching love - which is an utter shock to his
virility. And so he cannot cast the first stone at Herod and Herod-
ias and Salome. The play, though its ethic pretension is well posed,
is no more than a repetition of Sodoms ILnde; in both plays the
appeal to the audience must be in the dazzling picture of the
rottenness of society. An equally ambitious attempt is Die drei
ILeiherfedern (1899), a verse Mdrchenspiel\ Sudermann had a strange
illusion that it was his best work. With Johannisfeuer (1900) he
returned to the East Prussian scene and the right of any junker to
any girl on his estate; the action glaringly but effectively uses
symbol - leaping through fire in the night of the summer solstice
(Johannisnachf) - to show how Christian morality is burnt up by
heathen passion. Eslebe das'L.eben (i 902) had an international vogue;
it provided Eleonora Duse and Mrs Pat Campbell with an effec-